In a game that seemed destined for overtime, Denver junior Ty Loney scored with 4:53 remaining in the third period to break a 3-3 tie and help propel the Pioneers to a 4-3 victory and earn a spot in tomorrow evening's NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship game.
Loney's goal was his third goal and sixth point of the playoffs to continue an impressive stretch for the big forward. On the game-winning goal, Loney stole the puck at the Western Michigan blueline, and drove in on the right side of the net and fired a shot over the near-side shoulder of Western Michigan goalie Frank Slubowski.
The game was tight throughout with neither team building a multi-goal lead. Western Michigan started things off early when a dump in bounced off Brittain and went into the Denver net, but Denver answered back with a pair of goals to take a 2-1 lead into the second period. A Shane Berschbach breakaway goal knotted the game at two early in the second period, and Western Michigan scored another goal off a Denver defender to take a 3-2 lead, but Joey LaLeggia answered back for the Pioneers with just 3.4 seconds remaining in the second period to send the teams to the locker rooms tied after forty minutes, and settting up Loney's game-winning heroics.
Denver goalie Sam Brittain didn't have his strongest statistical performance, allowing three goals on 27 shots, but came up big for Denver when needed, including a key stop on Shane Berschbach two minutes before Loney's game-winning goal, and to preserve the lead with under a minute to play, when he stopped a point blank shot by Chase Balisy.
With the win, Denver remains in the hunt to steal an NCAA tournament bid. They'll meet the winner of Friday night's second semifinal between North Dakota and Miami with an NCAA tournament bid on the line. Western Michigan, meanwhile, will play their final game of the season tomorrow afternoon in the Frozen Faceoff consolation game.